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Men and Abortion

The South Dakota abortion ban and the issue of male reproductive fetal rights suggests we may soon be back into the Wire Coat Hanger debate as a nation. Morality is a personal choice that cannot be legislated from the courthouse or controlled from the pulpit. The abortion issue is, has, and shall always be, a force that rips apart families and pits men against women and governments against its citizens and churches against its believers.

When it comes to that kind of irrevocable change I prefer to turn inward for the intimate enlightening experience. About 18 years ago when I was 18, I dated a “good Catholic girl” who had five sisters and four brothers. Her church and family did not believe in birth control. She was sexually curious and active and the old, awful, chestnut that if you wanted to fool around as a horny young man, you only needed to find a sexually repressed Catholic girl and you each would find a pleasurable release together. I was not her first but she was mine.

I wore a condom during penetration but there were other times playing around naked when, we thought, no sort of protection was necessary. We dated for about a year and then broke up. Three months after the split she was back at my doorstep telling me she thought she was pregnant. I had no idea if I was the responsible party or not but her timeline seemed to mesh when we were supposedly exclusively dating — we broke up because of her infidelity — and I asked her if she had taken a pregnancy test.

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Passionate Mind and Intellectual Heart

When I first started teaching at a small liberal arts college on the East Coast I knew I was unprepared for student interaction. I didn’t know how to create a syllabus. I didn’t know how to grade students. I had no clue how to speak to them. I was a last-minute emergency appointment for a freshman English composition course and when I talked to my boss about going into the classroom feeling so totally unprepared, he said, “Just teach them what you know,” and with those words of encouragement he kicked me out of his office and down the hall into my classroom.
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Wire Coat Hanger Generation

In February, my graduate students in Public Health at a major research university and teaching medical school on the East Coast were discussing a new political cartoon by Pulitzer Prize winner Ann Telnaes I brought to class showing President Bush, as a tailor, holding an empty Supreme Court Justice robe in one hand and an “unraveled” wire coat hanger in the other.

The point of that Public Health class was to research crises in Public Health that are embedded in mainstream culture via history, art, literature and mass media entertainment portals. Telnaes has a similar cartoon this morning where President Bush is handing a judge’s robe to his Supreme Court nominee, John Roberts, and Bush is handing over an “unraveled” wire coat hanger to a woman on the street.

Bush says to her, “Here — hold this.” My students, who were all female, incredibly bright and intelligent, and fell into an age range between 20 and 23, did not understand that February cartoon. “I see the robe. I don’t understand the wire coat hanger,” one student said.

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